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Ross ousted as Smokey Bear champ

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Playing against a strong field of golfers at the annual Smokey Bear tournament in International Falls last weekend, Greg Ross knew it would be tough to repeat as champion.

He would have to play solid golf all weekend--and hope to benefit from a few breaks along the way.

To his credit, Ross was still in contention well into the final day.

After a good opening round Saturday, which left him just one stroke behind eventual winner Mark Christenson and Mike Katrin, Ross was two-under for his round Sunday when disaster struck at the mammoth par-five 12th hole.

First, he hit was he called a “bad” tee shot, then knocked an equally unimpressive second shot that resulted in a costly triple-bogey.

Then a double-bogey at the 18th, sparked when his approach hit the back of the green and bounced into the hazard, was the final nail in the coffin.

That set the tone for his final nine holes Sunday, finishing with a disappointing 40 to wind up tied for fifth in the championship flight with Scott Gordon and former NHL goalie Bob Mason.

Last year, Ross could do no wrong en route to an impressive 174 total over the 45-hole event for top honours. This year was a different story.

“I played pretty good but I had a couple of bad breaks,” he noted. “[Sunday] was like Newton’s Law. Everything that could go wrong did.

“The wheels fell off [at the 12th] and I couldn’t recover,” he remarked. “I got rattled and I tried to settle down but I forced things . . . golf becomes a mental game.

“My short game was pretty solid but it was one of those things where the good shots were not making up the bad shots,” he stressed.

Actually, Ross said several other players had trouble playing the course’s new back nine, noting the scores all were a tad higher this year as a result.

Mark Christenson, for example, won it with a 180 total (six strokes off Ross’ winning score last year). That was one stroke better than 1997 champ Eric Walls (181), who also lost last year’s tourney to Ross by one stroke.

Meanwhile, winning the President’s flight was Lyn Ellingson of Grand Rapids, Mn. in a countback over local golfer Greg Ward.

Ward, who qualified for the Manitoba amateur event last week, fired a sizzling two-over-par 74 on Saturday, then followed that up with an 81 and 39 for a 194 total.

Tom Zieman won the first flight with a 194.

Winning the second through 13th flights (which only played 36 holes) were Pat McBride (153), Rich Rud (160), Bob Cavanaugh (161), Jerry Bolstad (163), Larry Ross (169), Larry Hogrefe (178), Lyle Christenson (172), Jerry Karsnia (182), Jacob Bowman (183), Mike Warpula (178), Chad Curran (186), and Al Gilman (206).

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